Archive for April, 2015


Thursday, April 30th, 2015

The Millennials have been called the unluckiest generation by some.  They have been written off as a feckless generation by others.  (Interestingly including by millennials themselves but they’d like to point out that it is not their fault).

The Economist Group on the other hand disagrees and believes that the future is very positive for this segment. Their new research contradicts the stereotypes (lazy, narcissistic, apathetic and only interested in social media) and instead paints a picture of them as “arguably the most sophisticated media generation ever.”  Which given that they’re going to dominate the workforce of the UK in just a couple of years is important to address in media and communications thinking.


MediaCom’s own research reinforces the idea that they are different from the generation (Gen X) which preceded them.  In fact they seem in some ways to have more in common with the more outrageous of the Baby Boomers in terms of attitudes and openness to change.  In many households these two generations now live together (parents who might have confidently expected to empty nest by this point are instead still living with adult children who can’t afford to get on the property ladder).  In these “Boomennials” households experiences are shared and the two generations rub off on each other.  So for instance usage of second screens by Baby Boomers is above the average because they’re aping the behaviour of the Millennials that they live with.


Of course Millennials are the big users of smart phones and tablets.  They are the ones checking their phones before they get up and after they’ve gone to bed.  The Economist is correct in suggesting that social media is not their only media channel though it is how they navigate other media.  They consume physical, traditional format, media as well as digital media even though they are the first generation which has grown up with both.  Introducing the research at Adweek Economist Group’s Global MD of Client Strategy Nick Blunden explained that there’s more influencers in this group than in any other generation and named them “Gen-narrators”.  This group have a real potential as effective brand advocates, perhaps the most effective that we have ever seen, both to their peers and the wider consumer public (remember they’re living with Boomers for a start).


We really need to get to them therefore if we expect to influence with a comms strategy.  They’re a sophisticated bunch.  They are the first generation that fully, instinctively and expertly understand social media.  They know how to get their voice heard.  Media is properly democratised in their hands.  It is the first time ever that a generation’s voice has not been edited or mitigated by a few individuals – the editors of papers and magazines, radio and TV.


The power of this is awesome.  We must thank the inventor of the hashtag for their ability to navigate the avalanche of opinion that this power creates.  Will we see loyalty to a particular media brand migrate instead to loyalty to a hashtag about which people are passionate?



You say correlation; I say causation

Friday, April 24th, 2015


“Too long, didn’t read”. Microsoft’s Chief Envisioning Officer Dave Coplin swept into our offices this month to remind us that behind every bit of tech there’s a human being.


He described the symptoms of the Digital Deluge on the average human, one of which is that you can’t manage to concentrate on anything lengthy.  It is yet to happen to my emails but apparently TLDR is now the dismissive response you can expect to any email longer than a sentence or two (including your sign off with best wishes).


We’re the first generation that has really had to cope with DD (Digital Deluge) and we aren’t all coping with it very well according to Dave.  We don’t concentrate, we skim everything, we can’t put our smartphone away even when with our loved ones, and we’re incapable of effective multi-tasking EVEN if we’re women. (Personally I love to multi-task however this might be because I am not so great at only doing one thing at a time.  I believe one bit of activity enriches and enhances another.  Dave has research though that proves me wrong so there we go.)


Dave provides a solution to the DD.  The systematic use of data.  He talks about a paradigm shift from the world of causation to the world of correlation. There will be lots of data, lots of patterns and rather proving causation in it we can rely on patterns of correlation.  I agree with a good deal of the spirit of what Dave says.  I cannot agree with this.


I’m sure I don’t need to remind you : “Post hoc ergo propter hoc”.  The Latin saying which translates as “after this therefore because of this” is a well known fallacy which assumes that since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X.


Well quite often it isn’t.  There are a number of famous examples of this.  One from ancient less digital times is that despite the fact that the cock crows each morning before sunrise, the cock crowing does not cause the sun to rise.  From the first decade of this century this graph shows correlation between per capita consumption of mozzarella and the rise in number of civil engineering graduates.


You need rigour as far as interpreting data is concerned, and perspective.  And a good algorithm.


There is much to be valued in the Dave Coplin view of the world.  He also talked about a “Copernican Shift” which is on its way.  At the moment we gravitate around technology.  As I sit here blogging I have three phones and two screens. And an impulse to check all of them.  Dave speaks of a new era soon to arrive where technology revolves around us instead and will act as our perfect executive assistant, personal coach and valet.


No more TLDR.  Technology will read it for us and decide what to do.  What could possibly go wrong with that?







The dominance of the “Visual Web” may herald a new era in human communication.

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Nicola Mendelsohn of Facebook, speaking at last month’s Guardian Changing Media Summit, where she was described as the “most powerful media figure” in Europe, laid out the company’s vision for an “immersive, visual based web that makes communications easier in an increasingly frantic world”.


Marketing Magazine said that Nicola claimed that the growth of “seemingly trivial communications such as cartoon stickers had serious implications for brands”.  Referring to the Despicable Me 2 sticker partnership where minions stickers were shared over 2 billion times she said “that’s 2 billion instances of people using brands to express emotions with friends” and called them a modern version of hieroglyphics that crosses language and borders.


Laporoscopic chief surgeon and writer Leonard Shlain would thoroughly approve that the “most powerful media woman in Europe” was welcoming in a new era.  An era that he has predicted since the publication of his book “The Alphabet versus the Goddess” in 1998 – the year of Google’s birth and just 6 years before Zuckerberg gave us Facebook.


Shlain’s idea is that largely words are masculine and images are feminine.  His enthralling argument is that the advent of literacy reinforced the brain’s analytical part – catalysed its development.  This part of the brain is linear, abstract and predominantly masculine.  This was at the expense of the other older parts of the brain which are holistic, concrete, visual and feminine.  This made the balance between men and women shift, initiating – thousands of years ago – the disappearance of goddess worship, the abhorrence of images, the decline of women’s social and political status and “a long reign of patriarchy and misogyny”.


It is certainly true that for millennia information and power were in the hands of the literate (or their masters) – who for most of the last three thousand years have been men.  Only in the second half of the last century did television mean that you could know a broad range of stuff without reading about them.  He says “Since WW2, the technologies of information transfer have transformed the foundations of world culture, and in the process, helped it balance feminine and masculine.  Iconic information proliferating through the use of television, computers… the internet have enhanced, and will continue to enhance, the positions in society of images, women’s rights.


The new season of Mad Men opens with a vignette of just how seriously ad men took ad women in the 1970s when Peggy and Joan get humiliated in a meeting by suits from the parent agency.  At all of the conferences last month, a key question raised was the minority of women on stage.  Fingers have been pointed this month at the 2015 Circulo Creativo USH ideas jury without a single woman judge.


A panel without women might be a very definition of a 1st world problem.   It obviously pales into insignificance with continuing violence to women across the globe.  However anyway you consider the situation in the first world there is still a long way to go.  I hope Shlain and Mendelsohn are both right and that the Visual Web accelerates innate positivity to gender equality.





“Um, excuse me but the client would like to see him with his top off”

Monday, April 13th, 2015

The first and only casting session I ever attended was for the Ajax Houseproud Hunk.  I’d been involved in every stage of the pitch and idea.  The product was for a new cleaning variant that meant that there was no residue after you sprayed your kitchen surface and wiped – there was no need to wipe again with a wet cloth.

The agency that we were pitching with showed us early ideas that involved what mums and housewives could do with the time saved from the second wipe.  As I remember it they including learning French or playing a round of golf.

I was fresh from doing some research into mums in the UK.  I’d been out and asked them what was going on, both those only working in the home and those with full and part time jobs.  One thing was clear.  They were not going to learn French in the time they saved wiping a surface.  Indeed many of them already were saving that notional time because they didn’t do a second wipe.  (Who does?)

But the product benefit would sell product and an ad campaign would ensure that the product had shelf room.  After I explained my problem with the ad concept to the rest of the team the creative director asked me a straight question.  “What is it that housewives do want then?”

“For someone else, anyone else, to do the cleaning”.

From this came the idea of the House proud Hunk.  The ad showed a hunk (obviously) cleaning someone’s kitchen with the slogan “Save him time cleaning – get him new Ajax!”.

I got to go along to the casting session, where the client asked me in a whisper please to ask the producers if the models auditioning could please take their shirts off.

Well, years later, once again we seem to have gone backwards : Cleaning ads no longer feature fantasy hunks doing the housework for hard pressed housewives but housewives dancing with joy after cleaning their own floors or scouring the house to be sure to be ready for their “prince”.

NewsUK’s recent poll that says that the ad industry is “still portraying women in subservient roles while men are depicted as powerful”.

Who cares if the advertising is effective at selling stuff?  Well women care for a start.  One of the most notable points in my research was that women notice how they are depicted and feel criticised and judged by it much more than men do.  Reflecting women’s real roles in life will lead to a competitive advantage versus other brands, so if I was writing ads that’s what I would do.  As Richard Huntington, CSO at Saatchi said recently of new research for Mumsnet: “Advertisers are still stuck in the rut of seeing mums in the role of cook, cleaner and nurse – while dad has fun playing outside and getting messy with his kids. We need to focus less on the drudgery, if we are to reflect the reality of modern mothers.”





TV and Social are the perfect marriage – is NetFlix set to break them up ?

Monday, April 13th, 2015

As Thinkbox have often pointed out to us we love talking about TV.  TV shows are still cultural glue for the nation.  Against all doom laden predictions from a decade ago we are still watching lots of TV and we love to talk about it.  Thinkbox write : “The advent of multi-screening has seen TV become even more magnetic. Many of us now share a virtual sofa with the world and having a second screen to hand enables us to give live, online reaction to TV via social media; uploading pastiches to YouTube, joining TV-related Facebook groups, and airing opinions on Twitter.”

Event TV is a still a growth category.  As Nick Burcher wrote in “Paid, Owned, Earned” : “TV show that reach mass audiences are even more important, especially live-event TV like American Idol, The X-Factor or sports coverage, where there is a social imperative to watch the action as it happens”.

If you miss the live show, you miss the best of the chat.  There are some shows that I find barely of interest without accompanying tweets.  But unmissable with Twitter.

I have bonded with semi-strangers because we share an opinion of the Dowager Duchess on Downton.  I have judged others because they didn’t warm to a favourite Great British Bake Off contestant.

We like talking TV, online or in real life, because TV crosses all kinds of age and social divides.  It enables small talk for even the most socially inept and shy.

Is Netflix out to ruin this ?  Time delayed viewing has been fine.  I’ve gone back to conversations with people about Fortitude when I have caught up with my catch up TV (thanks Andrew D for being there for me on this one).  But as blogger Rex Sorgatz eloquently points out Netflix are ruining TV chat by releasing the whole series in one lump.  There’s no flow anymore.  I can’t binge watch – I’m too busy and anyway it makes me feel slightly ill.  So there are shows that I have totally missed out on as far as buzz is concerned.  And now it seems like there is not much point in catching up.

As Sorgatz says “If no-one can talk about House of Cards, did it even happen ?”   He doesn’t think that releasing the whole series in one go does anything for anyone especially TV bloggers : ” It is not a good idea and people do not love it. Breaking the schedule broke how we talk about television. Television writers and recappers, in particular, are flummoxed about how to publish their writing — all at once? in groups of episodes? at all?”

Great stories are at the heart of why we love TV.  The drama of a great series of Big Brother matches the drama of a Broadchurch or of Hamlet.  I think the same emotion links much great TV whether it is classical drama, a soap, a reality show or sport.  We are drawn to seeing how people behave under pressure.  We love it when their true characters shine through.

And we love to share it.  We need those moments to make the most of our love of Telly.  The Netflix business model may be distinctive but it does nothing for bringing people together.